Getting in shape at 40 gave Lori the motivation to walk away from her corporate job and “go for it”!
When did you start to think about charting a new direction for yourself in midlife?
Right before my 40th birthday, I decided I wanted to be in really good shape for that milestone. I always loved fitness but when my kids were young I didn’t have much time for it. In 2006, while working part-time from home for a large insurance company and raising three kids, I started working out with a trainer, Sean Fitzpatrick. It was only once a week but it was so much fun that I used to tell him I wanted his job. He kept encouraging me to “go for it.” It was in the back of my mind but I never thought I could actually do it.
What is your Next Act? Tell us about what you are doing…
In 2008, my employer told me they wanted me to start coming into the office a few times a week; this was just the push I needed to “go for it” and become a fitness trainer. I researched certification programs and found one that would actually teach me about anatomy, physiology, exercise programming, etc. I am a hands-on learner and I knew I needed a program that was not just online or in a textbook. Six months later, I completed my class and passed my certification test. Sean had his own studio by then (I was still training with him) called One 2 One BodyScapes and agreed to take me on as an apprentice trainer, hiring me to work in his studio.
How hard was it to take the plunge? How did you prepare?
I was lucky – I had a spouse, Jonas, who fully supported me both emotionally and financially. I knew we didn’t rely completely on my income and that, if I did well at the training, I could make close to what I made at my old job. Jonas encouraged me to follow what I loved to do and was willing to be around with the kids during all my class time and when I was studying for my test.
What challenges did you encounter?
When I walked into my first training class, other than one gentleman, I was the oldest by at least 20 years. I was also the only one married with kids. It definitely made me pause and think that this might be a young person’s profession. Instead, I realized there must be a market for clients who don’t want to work with 20-year old trainers but would rather train with someone who understands what they’re going through: the frustrations of taking care of kids, work, laundry, hormone shifts, and trying to do it all while also getting some exercise in.
When I walked into my first training class, I was the oldest by at least 20 years.
The hardest part of the job is the sales part – always feeling the pressure to find new clients. Most of my clients come through referrals. I try to get involved in events that may get my name out there. I live in a small community, so many people know me through the school system, my kids, my temple, etc. I try to make sure people know what I do and, if they’re interested in working with me, I always invite them to visit the studio and try it out. Making sure it’s a good fit right from the start is one of the keys to a successful training experience.
This job, by nature, is also very hard to predict on a weekly basis: Some weeks you can have a full load of clients and another week, everyone can be away. This can be discouraging at times but my husband is always encouraging me, whether I’m too busy or having a slow week!
Were there times when you thought about giving up?
There are always times when a new job can get frustrating but I have never wanted to give up. One of the things I love about training is listening to a client and figuring out what can help someone feel better both inside and out. Many clients like to talk while they work out and I love figuring out the perfect balance of fitness and “therapy.”
Tell me a bit more about your clients and how you work with them.
90% of my clients are women ages 35-60. Given that I am currently in that age range, I am acutely aware of their needs so when a client comes in with a sore back because they’ve been driving kids around for the last four hours, I understand how frustrated they are and I know how to fix it both physically and emotionally. Many of my clients are looking for both a sympathetic ear to vent to as well as someone who can address their physical frustrations with weight gain, sore knees, and other aches and pains that start to hit us at this age. The certifications and training I’ve completed look at how functional movements can be used in exercise to allow our clients to feel better and improve some of these issues.
One of the things I love about training is listening to a client and figuring out what can help someone feel better both inside and out.
My first sessions with any new clients always include an assessment. We sit down and get background information and discuss specific goals then take a movement evaluation so we can better understand the needs of the client. As I progress with any client, we continue to re-evaluate and make sure our current plan is still working. I always want to keep things fresh and make sure my clients feel like they’re getting the most out of their sessions.
What do your kids think about your new career?
My kids had no idea what I did when I worked for the insurance company. I would try to explain and they would stare at me blankly. I think my kids like telling their friends now that their mom is a personal trainer. They also like that I can help them with their own training: They’ve all come to me at different times asking for training programs or to help them with some type of exercise plan. I know they are all somewhat conscientious about being physically fit. I don’t make it into a big deal; I just want them to be healthy.
What words of advice do you have for women seeking to reinvent themselves in midlife?
You only live once! It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. If you have an interest or a passion that could lead to a new career or Next Act, I really believe it’s so important to pursue it.
You only live once! It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
I remember my dad, a lawyer, once told me that when my mom decided to stay home to raise my brother and me, he was worried they might get bored with each other since he was “out in the world” and she was staying home with us all day. Well, my mom decided when I was in elementary school to study for her Masters in Art History. She got a docent job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which she has had now for over 40 years, continues to take classes, and is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to art and architecture. I can assure you, my dad is never bored and he tells her that all the time!
What words of advice do you have for those interested in pursuing your path?
Do it! Find your niche: Figure out what about the fitness industry (yoga, pilates, cross fit, 1-on-1 training) is interesting and pursue that area. Personal training is a big industry and has a low barrier to entry but I was lucky to have Sean as a mentor. Sean has continued to teach me, support me and encourage me. We have just finished a certification in Applied Functional Science and I am starting a new one in Nutrition and Wellness to round out my training.
What resources do you recommend?
National Council on Strength and Fitness
American Fitness Professionals & Associates
Contact Lori Herbsman at firstname.lastname@example.org
You certainly can become a personal trainer in your 40’s and in the age of obesity it is a career with great prospects…
Thanks for checking out Lori’s story Ian!
Thanks for this! I got my certification 5 years ago and never used it. I keep taking education to renew it, but have been considering externship to get some experience. I was wondering if it’s too late in life. I’m 44 but look 34 :). I hate working in an office. It is killing me and I keep getting fired. I’m gonna go for it!
Lisa, this is crazy! I see you posted this on 07/04/19…which was the day of my 43rd birthday. I also work in an office, hate it & am about to the point of potentially being fired bc of the corporate stuff that I cannot tolerate or control. The problem is, I have been here for nearly 10 years & I make a very, very good paycheck . Something has GOT TO CHANGE in my life. Health & fitness has been an area of great interest for me for many years. I’m just scared. I’m 43…& scared. This is a huge leap of faith for me. ☹